23 answers plus call to action from Gary Vee about leveraging business growth
We all know Gary by now, it is impossible not to. CEO of Vayner X (a modern-day media and communications holding company) and Vayner Media (a full-service advertising agency), Gary is a brilliant marketer and entrepreneur. He and his family immigrated to the US from Belarus in 1978. Gary was one of the first users (for business purposes) of the internet and social media in the late 90’s (including Youtube in 2006 WineLibraryTV), having a keen sense of intuition about where the attention and money are going. He is an active supporter of content and particularly free content, himself being a living example.
I met him 3 years ago during a Brand Minds conference and I was enchanted. His enthusiasm, energy, empathy, optimism and care are all his trademark. Re-listening/re-watching him is always a source of recharging batteries and gaining sharp inside and foresight.
One of my business classes addressing teenagers from British School of Bucharest is Personal Branding and Life skills inspired by Gary Vee. Because teens love Gary just as much as young entrepreneurs or corporate people do!
During his participation at Brand Minds LIVE 2020, he gave the following answers when asked how to leverage business growth during times of a pandemic (and recession).
1. What is the main strategy to leverage the business in Covid-19 crisis?
- Be self-aware. Tell yourself what you can/can not do. If you are a restaurant, you can do delivery, if you are an events organizer, you can do it online, etc. Focus on what you can in terms of: product and service, how your product/service is affected, how you can take advantage
Also, ask yourself this question: what is your content and media strategy right now?
2. What is a good inovation?
Any inovation that is not against the consumer. (eg QR code - you can not impose it ahead of consumers readiness to accept it)
3. Which are the top 3 qualities of an entrepreneur?
- action - act like a firefighter
- always ready to innovate
- can communicate with the audience and the people they work with
4. How were you personally affected and reacted to Covid-19 situation?
- I did films/videos - my strategy of responding was letting it go
- I lost around 35 speeches around the world
- Vayner Media was affected by cash flow issues and, consequently, layoffs
5. What do you recommend for entrepreneurs to gain media attention?
- do high risk, high reward activities (authentic, good ideas)
- put yourself there as a good, charismatic and creative person
- create a piece of context/physical siatuation (think of yourself as an anchor of TV)
- eg - if you start selling $500 coffee - this is a crazy idea, but for sure you will drive attention
6. Which brand should be built first: business or personal?
Business first! Just like I did back in 2002 with my father’s ecommerce and retail business. But you can do both now - building business and documenting the journey!
7. What is the biggest mistake people do now?
They do not understand the power of Linkedin, this is the most interesting social media channel now and it should be THE sales channel!
It still has an organic awareness that you can easily get.
When it comes to Tik Tok, this is like a TV platform/show - when it was hot, everybody wanted to be there. Therefore, every platform is long term investment when it is hot. And Tik Tok is hot now and there are plenty of 30-40-50 y.o. people there.
8. 3 strategies to keep a high level of attention for a campaign
- IDEA - a great campaign is about a creative idea
9. IDEA or TACTICS?
You need to balance idea with TACTICS, because you are at the mercy of the PRODUCT and the SERVICE.
If your product stinks and you invest in it, a whole world will know that it stinks.
I would add (my personal note) that we are living now in a world of product plus service, so creative ideas with not equivalent support on the product and service sides are just a waste of money, time and perspective. Unhappy customers (because people are now looking for realistic products and services more than they did half a year ago) will get infuriated to see great stories and campaigns which are not reflected in great products and services.
10. Which are the things that you expect from a startup in order to invest in it?
- if you do not know the answer for a question, say it, do not pretend that you know it
- Do I believe that in the next 30 months the people will buy what I am investing in? This is the reason for me not investing in VR, because it is a long term return.
- How is that entrepreneur going to deal with things like Covid?
11. Which are the characteristics of success for scalability?
- my belief that coconut water or red wine can and will explode
- the person in front of me - the entrepreneur is able to sense the moment, because you need to be an artist to sense the momentum
12. What is your opinion - is it a good moment to start a business now?
There is never a bad moment to start one, because history is telling me this.
13. Shop & entertainment? Livestreaming - is this the future?
This started as a trend on Chinese social networks, now it is expanding in US also, it is integrating live videos into business results.
The answer is 100% - HSN (Home Shopping Network - live plus link to products)
14. How should an entrepreneur overcome the mental obstacle of loosing money?
Do not become an entrepreneur in order to make money to buy stuff, you will be unhappy. If you want more the things/stuff/money that come with entrepreneurship, this is not the game.
15. How important is for an entrepreneur to have a mentor?
I did not do mentoring, I was listening to the customers, but for some was useful. There is not a right answer here, it is up to everybody’s choice.
16. What about your videos? Are they context videos?
Yes, they are context videos and I share a lot of content for free. In Gary’s opinion, 50% of the content is for awareness of the current business and the future business and 50% (the free content) is for giving back.
17. What is the dark side of being famous?
I do not share my personal life, I want to keep it mine, but I would say that the downside of being famous is the judgement and how you handle it is an indicator of how you succeed.
18. How do you deal with haters?
I have a high level of empathy/simpathy - if they have time to consume content and deploy hate, that means they need empathy.
19. Which people do you admire?
My mother - she is a great hero. I admire kindness in people and work ethic not at the expense of mental and physical health. I do take free time when I need it, I am not a big fan of overwork, because my business is a marathon. My success came because I was kind to my employees and customers and because I was smart about the wine industry.
20. What will be big in 5 years time?
- SMS retail - people buying by SMS
- Voice activated devices (eg Alexa, etc)
- Influencer marketing (from humans to virtual influencers)
- Fragmented OTT (over-the-top media - a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet)
21. Do you have any regrets?
I am too happy to have regrets. I made a lot of mistakes, but I am better at leading with candor. I should have made bigger bets with Facebooks and Twitter, I should have negotiating more with my dad and brother.
22. What is the challenge that helped you become better?
My father belongs to the old school, he was never a great communicator, he was a rough imigrant, so I had to figure it out between 14 and 24 years old how to talk to him, to work with him and that helped me learn how to work with people. In order to change my dad’s mind, I had to raise my emotional intelligence, to be patient and calm.
23. How do you see the world in 5 years from now?
People are demonizing a lot of things now. Instead of finding negative commnalities, better change the approach, as life is how you see it!
My hope/dream for the next 5 years is that we are on the tale end of this era of tearing us appart and building backup (joy, happiness, creativity)
CALL TO ACTION from Gary:
Content every single day on multiple platforms without burning out. The leverage point should be controlable by you.